The 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942, famously nicknamed the Flying Tigers, was composed of pilots from the United States Army (USAAF), Navy (USN), and Marine Corps (USMC), commanded by Claire Lee Chennault.
The group consisted of three fighter squadrons with about 20 aircraft each. They trained in Burma before the American entry into World War II with the mission of defending China against Japanese forces. The group was essentially a private military contractor, and for that reason the volunteers have sometimes been called mercenaries.
The Tigers' shark-faced fighters remain among the most recognizable of any individual combat aircraft of World War II.The group first saw combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after Pearl Harbor (local time). The Tigers are credited with destroying nearly 300 enemy aircraft, losing 14 pilots on combat missions. In July 1942, the AVG was replaced by the U.S. Army 23rd Fighter Group, which was later absorbed into the U.S. 14th Air Force with General Chennault as commander. The 23rd FG went on to achieve similar combat success, while retaining the nose art and fighting name of the volunteer unit.